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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Alternate Prepositions?

More and more lately I’ve been hearing and seeing a change in the prepositions used in common phrases.

I’ve already commented on PITE about the use of “deal to” instead of “deal with” in NZ, and of course we have the age old debate about “different from/to”.

Recently I noticed some others creeping in:-

“what do you make to....” instead of “what do you make make of .....”

“I have no intention on.......” instead of “I have no intention of......”.

I’m sure there are others.

While there may be nothing grammatically wrong in this, it does sound a little strange and raises the question of why and how such usage arises.

Does it stem from a desire to be different just for the sake of being different?

Is it down to some kind of narcissism?  

. when saying “what reading

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I'd never heard of either of these before, but I don't really see why it should be down to any ulterior motive. Perhaps it's a dialectical thing that has come out into the open (my preferred option). Perhaps it started as young people's slang - there are quite a few instances of both expressions on Twitter and Facebook. Quite a few expressions that were considered peculiar to my generation at the time are now part of the standard language ('hassle', 'hype' etc).

There are a few examples of 'I have no intention on + -ing' at Google Books, starting about 2000, all American as far as I can see, and mainly in self-published books.

'What do you make to' on the other hand seems to be specifically British. Nothing in Google Books, but:

'What do you make to the show so far' - Rob Leigh, The Mirror, 2 days ago

'What do you make to the 'Magic and Sparkle' ad? - The Daily Record, Nov 2103

'Thanks for that, what do you make to the leather seats on these Omnicities?' - Arriva North East

'What do you think to motorway service stations?' - Apparently from the script of 'Endeavour', ITV's prequel to Inspector Morse

A question to readers on a BBC forum (2007) - 'Id like to hear your thoughts on Thierry Henrys start in Spain ... what do you make to his performances to date?' - got thirteen responses, but none mentioned the grammar.

And a couple from Sky Sports on Twitter and Facebook.

I wonder if it's a Northern English thing, perhaps.

HS - I would reword one of your statements - it's you who has the age old debate about different from/to - what Fowler called 'a superstition'. In British dictionaries, including the OED, there is no debate, although Oxford Online while defending it admits it is 'disliked by traditionalists'. In British English 'different to' is fine, and has a noble literary history (Fielding, Smollett, Austen, two of the Brontés, Thackeray, Dickens) (and me, of course!) - and as you say it's 'age old', so it's hardly creeping in - in fact it was probably used more in the nineteenth century than it is now. :)

Warsaw Will Apr-30-2014

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"Endeavour" was in fact where I heard "what do you make to".

As for "the age old debate"; there are many who believe, as I do, that the use of "different to" is an affectation adopted by a contrary bunch for no reason other than a desire to be seen to be different.
This view is in fact amplified by statistics that show minimal use of "different to" until the 60s when there was a definite upsurge which was almost certainly due to the impact of television on speech patterns in the UK.
"If it's on tele it must be right!"

user106928 Apr-30-2014

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@HS - OK, so that apparently makes me affected and part of a contrary bunch who want to be different, even though as far as I know I've been using 'different to' since childhood, and wasn't even aware I used it until you pointed it out. I'm sorry, but that's absolute rubbish.

Statistics actually show quite a considerable use in the nineteenth century, declining between 1880 and 1960, before rising again. Were all those writers I mentioned, which you scrupulously avoid discussing, also part of this contrary bunch? I hadn't realised that the telly had had such an impact in the nineteenth century.

I wonder, were the people who first dropped 'thou' in favour of 'you' also a 'contrary bunch'? Was Shakespeare affected for introducing so many expressions into English? Did Thackeray simply want to be different? I suppose it's one way of looking at it.

Sorry to come on strong like this, but if you will assign motives you can't possibly know about to me and other people who don't use your approved options, and label us as affected or contray, I will feel free, honour bound even, to reply. I also don't think this way of looking down on other people's motives for adopting certain ways of speaking is a very useful way of looking at language change, or even anywhere near reality.

Neither do I share your (and Neville Gwynne's) idea that the rot set in in the sixties. I would be tempted to simply call this rear-view mirrorism - and every generation has their cut-off date. No doubt people in the fifties were blaming it all on 'the wireless'. And incidentally, when I listen to some of the old stuff from the forties and fifties still available on Radio 4 Extra on the iPlayer, I'm very happy we don't talk like that any more!

Personally, I simply enjoy the English we have, and am endlessly fascinated by all its varieties and little variations. Without all these little idiosyncrasies we wouldn't have a lot to talk about here, would we now? Now don't take this the wrong way, but please HS, come down off your high horse occasionally. :)

Warsaw Will May-01-2014

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I seem to have upset you, and for that I apologise.
The stats to which I refer were in fact gleaned from a post that you made some time ago and I will endeavour to retrieve that post.
That post pointed to a graph which clearly showed low usage of "different to" in UK English from early 1800 until the 1960s when there was a marked increase.
Given that, then if you used "different to" from early childhood that would suggest that you started school in the mid to late 1960s.
Prior to that I am sure that no English teacher in the UK would have dreamt of using "different to" since "different from" was the recommended form, especially in Scottish schools.

user106928 May-01-2014

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Found the graphs:-

I was mistaken about the marked increase in the 1960s. There was a slight increase.

user106928 May-02-2014

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I think you were probably right about the rise since the sixties, but this was after a drop since 1880, which is easier to see when you take 'different from' out of the graph. The use of 'different to' is about 50% higher than it was in 1880.

But the use of 'different from' has risen even more since around 1900, which is very apparent on those graphs you've just linked to, so the ratio of 'to' to 'from' was actually higher in 1880 (around 10%) than it is today (less than 9%), as I pointed out in an earlier thread..

"Prior to that no English teacher would have dreamt ...."

We've been here before. I have no idea what my English teacher said, as I really don't remember the subject coming up. But as that generation of teachers were heavily influenced by Fowler, I imagine at least some of them will have agreed with him that 'different to' was perfectly OK. But there is no way that either of us know what other English teachers were saying. And didn't you once say that you weren't interested in hearsay (something about someones's granny).

Anyway I'm not particularly bothered what English teachers may or may not have said in the past (mine taught us quite a few things which I'd rarely use today). The fact is that virtually every authority on British English sees 'different to' as an acceptable alternative to 'different from'. And of it was good enough for those writers I've mentioned at least three times now, it's good enough for me. Nobody's asking you to use it, just to recognise its validity and stop looking down on those of us who do.

And why this on earth this need to speculate on why or when I started using it? (In any case you're well out). Why did Jane Austen use it? Why did Thackeray use it? Given its history, who used it in the past, and its declining total share, I don't think television or the sixties had an awful lot to do with it. But I'm never going to convince you of that, so perhaps we should just drop it.

Warsaw Will May-03-2014

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I admire the quixotic zeal with which you defend minority positions. :-))

Just heard another "alternate preposition" on Fox Sports News.
Interviewer asked "Is the player in risk?".
There was then a reference to players "contesting for the ball"!
How long before such aberrations become accepted and someone finds that perhaps Thackeray or even Austen said/wrote something similar.
That is of course allowing for printers errors and transcription boobs. :-))

user106928 May-07-2014

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